I had an appointment with my ophthalmologist last week to have my annual exam and be fitted for new lenses. Unlike all my friends who have had LASIK surgery, I'm too nervous to go "under the laser"; I'll take my annoying glasses and contacts, thank you.
Some of my friends are on their LASIK touch-ups or now have to wear glasses again as their vision has worsened over the years, and many have asked me if there is anything they can do with their diet to help maintain their vision.
I myself wanted to know whether typing on my computer in the dark would really ruin my eyes (it won't) or if my diet and lifestyle could actually help save my sight as I age (it can). I posed this question to my ophthalmologist, and here's what she suggested:
Keep Your Arteries Clean
The eyes contain many tiny blood vessels, and they require good blood flow to keep the tissue nourished. If your arteries are in poor condition due to high blood pressure, or atherosclerosis, your eyesight may eventually suffer from the lack of oxygen and nutrients being delivered to the eyes via the blood. A plant-based diet that includes plenty of fruits, veggies, and slowly digested whole grains is best.
Focus on Lutein and Zeaxanthin
The macula of the eye is concentrated with two carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin. These phytonutrients are found in dark, leafy greens, broccoli, egg yolks, tomatoes, avocados, and pistachios. Lutein and zeaxanthin are thought to act like a sunscreen for your eyes. Research shows that individuals who have the most lutein and zeaxanthin reduce their risk for age-related macular degeneration (AMD) by as much as 35%. AMD is the leading cause of blindness among older Americans.
Get More Omega-3s
Eating fish or foods supplemented with DHA and EPA long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fats have been shown to also reduce the risk of AMD. A meta-analysis study published in the June issue of Archives of Opthalmology reported that high dietary intakes of omega-3 fatty acids resulted in a 38% reduction in the risk for AMD. I like many of the new products that are infused with DHA and EPA, the two most effective omega-3s, including the Horizon dairy products, Silk soy milk, Tropicana OJ, and even Crisco's new Puritan Canola oil with DHA.
Though it's not an eating tip, it make sense to throw in some common sense advice: Eyes are very sensitive to UV radiation, so wearing large sunglasses offers eyes protection from the sun. Another benefit: You'll help stave off the lines and wrinkles that come from squinting outside.
By Julie Upton, RD